Most people are aware of the fact that, no matter how new the plumbing might be, it's a good idea to have a plunger in the house. In the rare instance that you find yourself up a creek without a plunger, we've got a few tricks that will keep the, ahem, crap from hitting the fan/floor.
First things first. If you've got a clog, and the water is high in the bowl, don't flush repeatedly in the hopes that it will clear itself —you'll probably just cause a nasty flood in your bathroom. Deal with the potential overflowing water first. If you've got time before it spills over, lift off the back of the toilet and pull up the floater to stop more water from filling the bowl. Shut off the water valves if you have to. Wait until the water has gone down entirely, then try one the following. Repeat if needed.
Method #1: Hot Water
First, try to locate a bucket and use it to pour 10-12 cups of hot water (but not boiling, as this can cause the bowl to crack) from the sink or tub into the toilet and let it sit for a few minutes. The water should help break up the "brown" you're attempting to flush down.
Method #2: Dish Soap
Pop into the kitchen and grab the dish soap. Squeeze a generous amount into the bowl — the soap will help break down the solids and help things along. (If you don't have dish soap, try shampoo.) Add some hot water and let it sit for a while. Things should start moving around and breaking up in a half hour or so, but in more extreme cases, you should be prepared to let the soap do its thing overnight.
Method #3: Epsom Salts
If you are at a friends' place and you're too embarrassed to leave the bathroom before things are taken care of, peek in the shower or under the sink and see what you can find. A spare bath bomb or some epsom salts dropped in the bowl could help to get things a movin'. (Although you might have to 'fess up to your friend and replace whatever you used to take care of the clog. While you're at the store, maybe pick up a plunger for your friend as a belated housewarming gift...)
Method #4: Wire Hanger
Find a wire hanger in your closet, preferably one with a plastic coating so you don't scratch the bowl. Unwind and straighten the wire as much as possible, then insert it into the toilet bowl. Move the wire around and try to break up the solids as much as possible, much as you would with a toilet snake.
Method #5: Toilet Brush
Use the toilet brush in the same way you would a plunger: holding the handle, push the bristles into the drain hole, give a few quick, forceful pumps, and step away. Gross, yes, but sometimes you just have to do what you can to keep that toilet from overflowing. I know I'd much rather clean up a brush than mop brown stuff up off a bathroom floor...
Method #6: Bleach
If all else fails, try a combination of bleach and powdered dish detergent. Pour a couple cups of the former, and one cup of the latter into the bowl. Wait 20-30 minutes while the two do their chemical thing, and then try flushing again.
We want to know: what methods have worked for you in the past? What's your go-to solution?
-Re-edited from a post originally published 9.18.09 by Grace Shu - DF